It was a long time in the making, but the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s debut event in Toronto is now set, at least everything but the fight card.
The promotion’s first even in Canada’s largest city, originally dubbed UFC 131, has been renamed UFC 129. It will take place at the Rogers Centre, formerly the Sky Dome, on April 30, 2011.
The Rogers Centre has held more than 68,000 fans for a single event. That record is held by Wrestlemania X8, operated by the professional wrestling promotion World Wrestling Federation, which is now World Wrestling Entertainment or WWE.
The UFC has its sights set on breaking it’s own North American mixed martial arts attendance record, set at the recent UFC 124 in Montreal at 23,152, but isn’t likely to come anywhere near the WWE. That is more a matter of choice than lack of ability according to promotion officials.
“We’ve had a couple of visits and taken a look at how it might be configured,” UFC director of Canadian operations Tom Wright told MMAWeekly.com. “But under no circumstances are we going to compromise the fan experience. We won’t compromise our experience standards, but we want to be sure the fans have the chance to be there and say they’ve been there for the first time.”
No matter what the final configuration for the Rogers Centre is – and no, the dome isn’t likely to be open in late April – the UFC is confident of smashing UFC 124’s record attendance.
“We’ve talked about the 30,000 to 40,000 range. Whatever it is, we’re going to set a record here in terms of turnstile attendance,” said Wright. “I can tell you it will be north of 25,000 and probably south of 40,000.”
As mentioned, the UFC 129 fight card is yet to be set. Speculation has centered on UFC welterweight champion and countryman Georges St-Pierre defending his belt against Jake Shields in Toronto, as well as the possibility of a heavyweight title tilt between champion Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos.
“You’re talking to the guy that runs UFC in Canada, you can imagine the guy that I want to see,” Wright responded when questioned about St-Pierre’s presence on the card. “The fact of the matter is (UFC matchmaker) Joe Silva does a great job. (UFC president Dana White) and (CEO Lorenzo Fertitta) know their stuff. It’s going to be a great card.
“What I’m lobbying for, I’d like to see two championships, a UFC 100 type of card.”